Faux Better or Faux Worse

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Posted January 17, 2008 in Eats

Spaggi’s in Upland aspires to be a fine dining restaurant, but unfortunately falls well short. Though it has an outward appearance of a luxury eatery, at the end of the meal it becomes evident that the fine-dining experience doesn’t go beyond the façade. 

Spaggi’s is located in an unsavory strip mall off of Route 66 behind a Del Taco. There’s nothing appetizing about its interior at all, in fact it’s off-putting. Sitting by the floor-to-ceiling windows in the winter is a mistake because they haven’t been altered from the standard storefronts that came with the space. The extra entrances and their poor insulation won’t stop cold from waltzing through the quarter-inch gaps surrounding the doors. If there can be said one good thing about the staff at Spaggi’s it’s that they’re more than happy to move your party, open tables permitting.

The décor is comprised of dark wood furniture and white linen dressing the tables. The floor is tiled and the walls are decorated in ostentatiously framed paintings, including a curiously out-of-place rendering of the Eiffel Tower—peculiar for an Italian restaurant. Since artwork dominates the view, it’s not uncommon to feel the sterility of a museum or a model home; the difference being that most of Spaggi’s environment is coated in a thick layer of dust.

An extensive wine menu is offered at the table and contains a diverse selection from around the world. The dinner menu is just as comprehensive, covering fish, steak, pasta, and fowl, and they offer heart healthy and signature dishes. While choice is typically good for family restaurants that are defining themselves as family restaurants, pared down menus usually benefit fine dining restaurants to showcase the Chef’s unique flair. Spaggi’s has approximately 55 menu items.

The Calamari Fritti ($12) appetizer was served with warm marinara and fresh lemon wedges. It was standard fare, rolled in a fluffy batter, but lacked any kind of seasoning. The Champagne Cream of Broccoli ($5.75) was competent, if not plain, but the Insalata Della Ana ($10), prepared with mixed baby greens, romaine, caramelized pecans and an assortment of fruit crumbled over with feta and dressed in raspberry vinaigrette, more than compensated with dramatic flair.

The entrées, regrettably, diminished the experience. The Spaghettini al Frutti di Mare ($21.75), which consists of assorted seafood tossed in spaghetti, wasn’t evenly prepared. The calamari rings in the dish were undercooked and rubbery while the pasta tasted overdone, as if it had been sitting in the pot too long. Mussels were served in broken shells, leaving my teeth and the roof of my mouth to find these crunchy, pointy surprises later. The coconut and macadamia nut crusted Halibut ($27) was also a conflict of taste. The sweetness of the crust and the mango topping clashed with the decidedly salty lemon-butter sauce, rendering it an appetite killer.

Even dessert didn’t come off as the reward it was meant to be. The crème brulée tasted like it had been made hours before and left on a shelf. The custard was warm throughout and had a strange tartness to its taste, though I chalk that last bit up to “creativity.” 

The problem with Spaggi’s is that it apes real fine dining and not much more. Chef Henry spreads himself too thin, covering too many food choices to really focalize his talents; the décor is gaudy, confused and soulless; the wait staff, while prompt, represented themselves as unprofessional—they could be heard talking openly about their personal lives, dropping inappropriate vulgarities and swear words within earshot. Overall, an experience at Spaggi’s falls short of the fine dining affair it presumes to be.  

Word to the wise: you’d be better served to save your money and eat at the Del Taco instead. At least there your expectations will be met.

Spaggi’s, 1651 W. Foothill Boulevard, Upland, (909) 579-0497, www.spaggis.com, Lunch Mon.–Fri., 11:00AM to 2:30PM, Dinner Mon.–Thurs., 5:00PM to 9:00PM, Fri.–Sat., 4:00PM to 10PM. Average Price for Two: $75, All major credit cards accepted.

 


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